There are plenty of inspiring and morale-boosting stories emerging from the gloom of COVID-19, but Travellers Choice member Belmore Travel may have come up with the sweetest of them all.
The entrepreneurial agency, located in the Melbourne suburb of Balwyn, has responded to the coronavirus crisis by transforming its office into a lolly shop, offering its clients confectionary from all around the world.
Owner Sue Brownley says that with the shop empty, the agency needed to do something that would maintain its profile and its connection with the local community and loyal clients.
"You've got to show people you are still here; that you're not going anywhere," says Brownley. "And we were also encouraged by the fact that people were still dropping by the shop just to say hello and have a quick chat."
The shop, A World of Lollies, has only been operating for three weeks but Brownley says it's going well, with brisk sales of "delicious Lockdown Lolly Packs and Iso-Packs", which the agency can safely deliver.
"We've had a lot of grandparents sending lollies to their grandkids, who they can't see. And it's been nice to hear back from people who've received the sweets that they really enjoyed the surprise."
The shop's biggest seller has been Rocky Road, produced by a local Melbourne company. And in terms of international sweets, New Zealand's Perky Nana bar is proving a hit.
"It's a nice additional sideline, which I think we'll continue with even once COVID is over," says Brownley. "It's a good use of space and it might be a nice touch if, for instance, we reward clients with a Perky Nana when they book a trip with us to New Zealand."
Ultimately, she says the lolly shop has helped keep her sane.
"You can't let it all get you down and it's uplifting to put smiles on people's faces. My advice to other agencies is come up with an idea and give it a go. It's better than sitting around doing nothing!"